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The Cheesehead officially comes to Lambeau

The Green Bay Packers recently acquired Foamation Inc. – the business behind the original Cheesehead

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August 10, 2023

GREEN BAY – Mention Cheesehead® and you’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t think of the Green Bay Packers.

The cheese-shaped headgear and the fan-owned team have been two peas in a pod for as long as many can remember.

Folks may not know, however, that the infamous foam headdress was actually first created for and worn at a Milwaukee Brewers’ game in 1987.

Milwaukee native Ralph Bruno said the Cheesehead idea came to him as he was reupholstering his mother’s couch.

“It wasn’t the day I planned my career, so to speak – it just came to me,” Bruno said. “I was attending a Brewers game with some friends of mine – we were going to be playing the Chicago White Sox, at the time, the Brewers were in the American League. Folks from the south have always called us cheeseheads, so I thought, ‘what the heck, I’m going to make a cheese hat.’”

Armed with a block of foam, his mom’s turkey carving knife, a wood burner and yellow paint, Bruno said he created his very first Cheesehead.

“I cut it into a triangle and the next thing you know, I had a Cheesehead,” he said.

Bruno said the reactions he got on his creation were mixed.

“My friends, for example, weren’t all that enthusiastic about me wearing it,” he laughed. “But, then a girl came running up to me asking to try it on. My friends commented, ‘hey, that’s never happened to Bruno before, girls running up to him.’ So, we then took turns wearing the hat during the baseball game.”

And as they say, Bruno said, the rest was history.

The interest in the one-of-a-kind hat continued, which eventually sparked the creation of Foamation Inc.

Before the age of the internet, Bruno said “back in the day,” he searched the Yellow Pages for a company to help create the foam needed for Foamation’s creations. 

“It was a big learning experience for me,” he said. “I didn’t have any type of background in marketing or business or anything. So, it was like (baptism by fire) in a lot of ways in different parts of the business.”

Bruno said the continued popularity of the Cheesehead eventually led to a partnership with the Packers.

Bruno said much of the company’s growth over the years happened organically.

Green Bay Packers fans have long been known as Cheeseheads. Photo Courtesy of The Green Bay Packers

“We never really had a hard plan – we’re going to make this next, we’re going to make that because, etc.,” he said. “It started off as a baseball thing, so I made a baseball cheesehead – that made sense. It was always kind of a natural, organic reason for why we were coming up with different designs.”

As expected, the Cheesehead was the staple of the company, but Bruno said much of Foamation’s business came from creating items for other companies.

Bruno said he hasn’t paid too much attention to the sheer number of Cheeseheads Foamation has created over the years, but did make a creative estimate a handful of years ago.

“At one point, we took a pretty good guess at it – this was 10 years ago, and it’s not really a hardcore number either,” he said. “It was, if you placed a Cheesehead in California and lined them up back to tip you’d make it all the way to New York – you could figure out how many because it would go from one coast to the other.”

Foamation’s next chapter
Today, the Cheesehead has since become a universally recognized symbol for Wisconsinites and Packers fans and includes a wide variety of specialty foam products from can koozies to bow ties.

After more than 30 years of growing Foamation, Bruno said it was time to shift gears.

Because the Packers were already the largest purchaser of their products – in order to keep them stocked in the Packers Pro Shop – the couple approached the team to determine the next steps for Foamation.

Those next steps, Bruno said, was the Packers purchasing the company.

The Packers announced late last month that the organization purchased Foamation, which has supplied the Packers Pro Shop with a variety of specialty foam products for years.

Bruno said you know when it’s the right time for something – and now was the right time to sell Foamation.

He said the Packers were the right buyers because both organizations have similar values.

“We consider ourselves to have been a small family business, and the Packers, though much bigger, are also a family business,” he said. “From anybody we met across the board with the Packers from sales to marketing to administration – all of the folks we dealt with treated us like family. We believe it was a perfect fit for us all.”

The Cheesehead was originally created by Milwaukee native Ralph Bruno. Photo Courtesy of The Green Bay Packers

Gabrielle Dow, Packers vice president of marketing and fan engagement, said the Packers are excited about the opportunity to continue growing the brand.

“The popular Cheesehead hats have come to represent Packers fans all over the world, and we’re excited to officially welcome this special brand to the Packers organization,” she said. “We’re looking forward to building upon the legacy the Bruno family has created over the years and offering our fans even more Cheesehead items to love.”

Dow said the Packers tested the acquisition waters with Foamation in 2015, but Bruno wasn’t quite ready to sell.

“When retiring from the business became a reality for the Brunos, they reached out, and we were thrilled to meet with them and learn more,” she said. “The acquisition makes sense on so many levels – not only from a retail standpoint but also a branding standpoint. The media and opposing fans have coined Packer fans as Cheeseheads, so why not own what we have been affectionately labeled?”

Bruno said one of the best parts of selling the company to the Packers was the opportunity it gave him to thank his family and friends who have supported him for the past three decades.

“They were always there for me,” he said. “All the success we’ve had over the years has been thanks to the support of family and friends.”

Dow said a variety of Cheesehead products are currently available in the Packers Pro Shop in-store and online (, and the team is exploring opportunities to grow the brand and create new products for fans to enjoy this coming season.

“We are hoping the (transition of ownership) will look seamless and the everyday fan will not know the difference in the change of ownership,” she said.

As for a change in the company’s name, Dow said “we do not have an answer on that yet.”

All Cheesehead hats and related foam products, Dow said, will continue to be manufactured in Milwaukee “and in other cities.”

“Fans should stay tuned for new products,” she said. “Our new plans will be revealed soon.”

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